By LORI STONE | Peer Support Specialist, Louisiana Department of Corrections
On August 10, 1992 the courts made a decision that changed the course of my life forever. I was ordered to stop drinking and taking drugs if I ever wanted to get my three children back from state custody. Honestly, because alcohol and drugs were all I had left in my life, I was pretty reluctant.
When reality set in on that day, I asked myself, “How did I get here?” I had lost my children and my family. I was homeless, embarrassed and spiritually bankrupt. This wasn’t the way my life was supposed to end up.
Growing up, I had everything a child could dream of. I was blessed with a loving, supportive family and I lacked for nothing. I was an honor roll student who was very athletic and had a bright future ahead of me. I had choices.
Any means of escape
When I was 14 years old, I found out I was adopted as a newborn. Instead of being thankful for what I had gained, I became hateful for what I felt had been taken from me. My thoughts, feelings and behaviors changed dramatically. I felt betrayed, confused, angry and unloved, for some strange reason. The hurt was almost unbearable, and I began looking for ways to escape that pain.
At that moment, I began to break the 10 Commandments and our Family’s Golden Rules. In our family you knew what to do, how to do it, why to do it and were taught to just do it because it was said to be done, with no questions asked. There were “do’s” and “don’ts” based on right versus wrong. I began to live life acting out the “don’ts.” Even knowing I was doing wrong, I wouldn’t find out the importance of these basic rules of life until later.
I started hanging around the wrong individuals and the wrong places, and doing things I had no business doing. Those decisions led me to dropping out of school early and, eventually, starting to have children at a young age. My family stuck by me throughout everything, but with their tough love, I knew I wasn’t making the choices they wanted for me.
By the age of 25, I had been raped, discarded into a canal and left for dead. I had been incarcerated, was living on the streets and had almost lost my life during an overdose. I had to bury one of my children because of my addiction and an abusive relationship I was in. I had lost all of my self-respect and dignity as a person. I drank alcohol and did drugs to escape and survive my reality. It was the only way I knew how to cope with my life, which had become unmanageable by the time I stood in that courtroom. I realized I had finally hit bottom and began to ponder how to change. How could I turn my life around?
Learning to be a mother
I decided that I was going to get my kids back first. I didn’t know how to be a mother or a parent, because my adopted mother had raised my children. I realized I had been following the pattern of my biological mother, and I wanted to break the cycle. I hated her for not loving me. I just didn’t understand.
And, I didn’t want my kids to go through what I had gone through.
Under the direction of the courts and the Office of Community Services, I was given provisions, requirements and conditions to help turn my life around. I began to adhere. I was fortunate to get into an amazing halfway house, and I completed the program they set before me. I had to attend AA meetings, parenting classes and counseling for myself and my family. I was drug tested at their discretion and lived by their rules.
As I sobered up and began to feel again, I struggled with the emotions I had numbed for so long. However, I had also been numb and out of tune with the beauty of life and what it had to offer. I still wasn’t thoroughly convinced that I wanted to live a clean and sober life. I was fighting a process that I now realize had already begun.
I completed every class and met every goal that was put before me. Good things started to happen in my life, finally. Most importantly, I got custody of my children back. Eventually, I had a home, a family and a host of new friends. One day I looked into the mirror, and I saw Lori Ann Stone for the first time in a long time. I told her that I loved her and truly meant it.
Living by grace
From that point on, I allowed my wings to spread and I soared by living life on life’s terms. That was the point in my life that I fell in love with Jesus, and that was the best thing to ever happen to me.
I was given an opportunity to be a parent from scratch again, and I now have four wonderful children. I am a very proud grandmother of nine healthy, beautiful children. Today, I’m buying a new house and car. Currently, I’m a peer support specialist who loves to assist and empower others. I also work as a program coordinator who assists persons with disabilities and the disadvantaged in achieving their goals of being self-sufficient.
I’m a survivor — only but for the grace of God — who is taking it one day at a time. Every day, I continue “letting go and letting God.” Just for today, I will strive for progress rather than perfection in all my ways.
I grieve for the many addicts before and after me who didn’t make it, and I try to help everyone I can. I will share my experience, strength and hope, which is my greatest treasure, hoping that my past mistakes don’t become someone else’s future.